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Precision Medicine: How to Tailor Cancer Treatment to the Individual

by Kimi

Cancer treatment has historically followed a one-size-fits-all approach. Patients with the same type of cancer, no matter where on the body, receive similar or even identical treatments.

However, advances in medical science have paved the way for precision medicine, a transformative approach that tailors treatment to the individual and unique characteristics of each patient and their disease.

What is Precision Medicine?

Also known as personalized medicine, precision medicine involves using detailed information about a person’s genetic makeup, environment, and lifestyle to design tailored treatment plans. This approach recognizes that each patient’s cancer is unique, even among those with the same type of cancer.

The goal of precision medicine is to provide the most effective treatments with the least possible harm. You can undergo precision medicine with a range of providers. For example, Moffitt Cancer Center specializes in lung cancer treatment.

The Role of Genomics in Precision Medicine

A cornerstone of precision medicine is genomics, the study of a person’s genes and their interactions. In the context of cancer treatment, genomics involves analyzing the genetic mutations and alterations in a tumor’s DNA. These genetic insights can reveal specific molecular targets for therapy, allowing for more precise and effective treatments.

Key Components of Genomic Testing

  1. Tumor Sequencing: This involves analyzing the DNA of cancer cells to identify mutations that drive cancer growth. By understanding the genetic alterations, doctors can select targeted therapies that specifically inhibit these mutations.
  2. Germline Testing: This type of genetic testing examines the DNA inherited from parents to identify hereditary cancer syndromes. Understanding these inherited risks can help in early detection and prevention strategies for patients and their families.
  3. Biomarkers: These biological molecules are found in blood, other body fluids, or tissues that can indicate the presence of cancer. Specific biomarkers can predict how a patient will respond to certain treatments, guiding personalized therapy choices.

Precision Medicine in Action

Precision medicine has revolutionized the treatment of various cancers, providing new hope for patients with advanced or difficult-to-treat diseases. Here are some examples of how precision medicine is applied in cancer care:

Targeted Therapy

Overview: Targeted therapies are drugs designed to specifically inhibit cancer cell growth by targeting specific genetic mutations or proteins involved in cancer development.


  • HER2-Positive Breast Cancer: Around 20% of breast cancers overexpress the HER2 protein. Targeted drugs like trastuzumab (Herceptin) and pertuzumab (Perjeta) specifically target HER2, improving outcomes for these patients.
  • BRAF-Mutant Melanoma: Mutations in the BRAF gene are present in approximately 50% of melanomas. Drugs like vemurafenib (Zelboraf) and dabrafenib (Tafinlar) target these mutations, leading to significant tumor shrinkage.


Overview: Immunotherapy enhances the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Precision medicine can identify which patients are most likely to benefit from specific immunotherapies.


  • PD-1/PD-L1 Inhibitors: Drugs like pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) block the PD-1 pathway, helping the immune system attack cancer cells. Biomarkers such as PD-L1 expression levels can predict which patients will respond to these treatments.
  • CAR T-Cell Therapy: This involves modifying a patient’s T cells to identify and attack cancer cells. It has shown remarkable success in certain blood cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).

Precision Radiation Therapy

Overview: Advances in imaging and radiation technology allow for more precise targeting of tumors while sparing healthy tissue.


  • Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT): Delivers high doses of radiation to small, well-defined tumors, minimizing damage to surrounding tissue.
  • Proton Therapy: Uses protons rather than X-rays to treat cancer, allowing for more precise delivery of radiation and reducing side effects.

The future of precision medicine lies in overcoming these challenges through continued research, technological advancements, and policy support. Emerging fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to play a significant role in analyzing complex genomic data and identifying new therapeutic targets.


Precision medicine represents a paradigm shift in cancer treatment, focusing on the individual characteristics of each patient and their disease. By leveraging the power of genomics and targeted therapies, precision medicine offers the potential for more effective, personalized cancer care.

As research and technology continue to evolve, precision medicine is poised to transform the landscape of cancer treatment, providing hope for better outcomes and improved quality of life for patients worldwide.

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